Theatersports tradition continues during COVID-19

By Emma Casaudoumecq

COVID-19 has created unprecedented times for many activities and events in everyone’s daily life, including Theatersports, the beloved improvisation competition at Branson.

With limited options available for the possible format of Theatersports during the pandemic that takes into consideration social distancing and masks, Branson faces the challenge of continuing to bring the Branson community together for this tradition.

“We might be able to have an audience that sits out on the field … and be able to have people do Theatersports with masks and the six-foot distance,” Maura Vaughn, the director of theater, said.

Vaughn is hopeful in her plan that an in-person version of Theatersports would be possible in the next few months due to the difficulties that exist while using technology for improv.

Vaughn said that “Theatersports is going to be more challenging to do over Zoom.”

Technology is not the only reason for Zoom not being the preferred choice for the performance, as Vaughn understands the value of in-person interaction during the difficult times of COVID-19. 

Vaughn recognizes that “we have all realized how valuable those shared experiences are.”

However, there will need to be preparation for the students participating in Theatersports in the upcoming weeks.

Vaughn said that she is “going to start getting a whole program together to practice over Zoom” before the competition due to the necessity of not mixing cohorts.

Social distancing and a possible outside performance will not be the only adjustments made to the normal show.

 Vaughn said that the teams, usually composed of students from different grades, may have a different setup: “We may actually have a freshman team, a sophomore team, a junior team, and a senior team because of the social distancing and the different cohorts.”

Theatersports, and improv in general, teach many skills that can be applied to other situations outside of the theater, especially lessons that can help with bonding during a difficult time similar to COVID-19.

Vaughn said that Theatersports can form a community. “The Theatersports format allows people to take chances faster … it allows people to have more self-confidence, and more confidence in the people that they are working with, and so it builds a team.”

Students also greatly value the teachings that Theatersports and improv provide that they can put to use outside of class.

“Improv is a good life skill. … Being able to come up with information on the spot could eventually be useful,” Lucille Rieke, a junior, said.

Students appreciate the community formed around improv, as well as the comfort it provides during a challenging time similar to COVID-19.

“This community of people who are willing to get on Zoom or get on stage and build off of each other. You have to be very connected and observant. You also just get to be very silly and outgoing. It’s kind of this relief from the constant worried state that everyone is in during COVID,” Rieke said.

Audience members also appreciate the experience of Theatersports and notice the community created around this event.

Former audience member and current freshman who will be participating in Theatersports this year, Caitlin Capitolo, said that she “take[s] away a sense of community from Theatersports,” as she finds the different games to be “all around very relatable.”

The current freshman class who will be competing in Theatersports are a bit disappointed that their first Theatersports will take place in an abnormal year, but they also have a positive outlook for the upcoming event.

“It’s a little upsetting … But, I think I can definitely make the most out of it,” Capitolo said.

Overall, the Theatersports competition will still strive to have the same dynamic environment within the Branson community, whether on Zoom or social distanced.

“As an audience member, it’s super fun, and I would definitely recommend going to see one or watching one over Zoom,” Capitolo said.